That Time (9) There’s No Nice Way to Tell This

The way Frankie killed himself was cruel. The act itself is inherently cruel to loved ones but he did something that was diabolically clever.

For most of his 41 years, Frankie lived with Ethel. I find that incomprehensible. He was the first of us to leave home, having moved into a halfway house while in high school. He married young (I think they were married) and lived with his wife for 1-2 years. After divorce, he joined the Navy and lived on base for 2-3 years. Before he finished his service he wanted out but they wouldn’t let him so he went AWOL and moved back to the family home in Falmouth with Ethel (and maybe Gregg and Anne). A year or two later he turned himself in to the Navy and spent a few months in the brig. After that, he and Ethel lived together until his suicide.

There was a disconnect between the Frankie I thought I knew and the Frankie who chose such a dramatic exit. Frankie was… nice. I mean, like the epitome of nice. He was kind and he was gentle. He was thoughtful and considerate. He gave of himself to many people. He could be intensely shy but he also had the drive to be social. He did volunteer work. He worked for a while at a home for people with intellectual disabilities. He was active in the Unitarian Church. He was interesting, smart, and helpful whenever the opportunity arose.

He and Ethel were close friends. When I invited him to join me on a vacation one time he came and brought her with him. I never got it. I still don’t. In a family of such ruin, where most of us didn’t stay in each other’s lives, where some of us don’t speak to each other, where none of us were close to our parents as children, how did this exception manifest?

Was it pathological? Was it regressive on his part? Was he incapable of being independent?

After his death, I discovered something I think they had in common. Her diagnosis came late in life but Ethel lived with OCD. Her symptoms were mild for most of her adult years and didn’t create any serious difficulties that I am aware of. But after Frankie’s suicide, her symptoms accelerated and she became more obviously symptomatic.

While I’m on the subject I’m gonna drop a minor bomb. I believe that everyone in my family lives with some degree of autism and OCD. This, of course, includes my parents. I’m not going to explain any further because it’s not relevant outside of the context here, which is that Frankie and Ethel were more alike than I knew.

So, how did he do it? I know you’re wondering what made Frankie’s suicide diabolically clever so I will tell you. He did it in a way that brought us in the room with him and made us witnesses to his drunken, stumbling departure from this world.

Frankie had a heart condition, one that required medication.

Neither Frankie nor Ethel were heavy drinkers but they had a nightly habit of drinking one small gin and tonic together while playing cards.

One night, there was no gin. They talked about ending the ritual and giving up the gin.

The next day, Ethel came home with a bottle of gin. The ritual resumed.

Frankie had not been taking his heart medication for several weeks. He had been saving them. On this night, after Ethel went to bed, Frankie retired to his room with the newly bought bottle of gin, the one that they had decided to forgo, the one that she decided to bring home anyway, his stash of pills, some 5×7 notecards, and a pen. He proceeded to wash down the pills, a few at a time, with the gin. As he did so, he took notes.

The first card was written in his normal handwriting and it looked like any other note might have looked on any other day. But on each subsequent card, his handwriting and coherence were deteriorating.  There were 9 or 10 cards in total and reading them in sequence made what he was experiencing visceral. It brought us into the room with him, helplessly watching him succumb.

(What follows is a brief and paraphrased version of what I can remember.)


10:45 pm

I am sorry, Mom and Dad. I am not doing this to

hurt you. I am not angry. I am of sound mind.

I want to do this.


10:55 pm

I’m not afraid. I’m calm, almost happy.

I have been waiting so long.


11: 05  p

I’m sorry for the pain this is causing. It’s not about you.

I can’t do it anymore. I’ve been planning this for a long time.

Ineed to do it.


11 : 2 0

I, am ligtheaded, fuzzy. Not drunk

still good. still wanting to


11:3A few more pills. Some gin

                   left. It ‘ s ok


11%p —  euphoric.

  I t hink it’s wo rking but I gonna

       drink one more glass

s not  drunk.  just  good.


15&%Im feelig foggy – dizzy

           its getting stronger.

finished the gin. too late to stop but i

                                                        dont want to


       imready

             please donbe sad   fo

      I h ve wanted iy    notangry  just

nothing you di            mum

                                dad


1111            sory    I

                       LO

                               Ve

            Y

                   o

                                      u

                                          —

                                            –

                                               –

That Time (03) The Wheels of the Bus Go Round and Round

I was raped. I think. No, not raped. Sexually abused. No, not that. Well, yes, that, but that was at home and more subtle than the incident that I’m talking about now. That was subtle abuse. There’s nothing subtle about it. And we are surrounded by it. My early years at home included violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and worst of all, neglect. All of that is part or this story. But the centerpiece of this story is a sexual assault that occurred outside of the home.

Was I raped? It depends on how you define that word. When applied to men it evokes a specific kind of rape: prison rape. Prison rape is a boogey man, a joke, a warning. If you are not enough of a man, this might happen to you. My favorite trope is this: if you rape a child, you deserve to be raped in prison. Don’t pick up the soap, mate. Har har.

Everyone agrees, including the worst gangsters and homicidal maniacs among us, raping children is bad. That’s not true. What we agree on is that anally raping a child with a penis or other object deserves to be punished, if caught. That kind of rape is rape, especially if there is bleeding. The many other ways of violating children are brushed aside, hidden, ignored, denied, and otherwise enabled and perpetuated. How can it be stopped? Unfortunately, a large part of that burden rests on the shoulders of those of us who survived. This is one of my efforts in that regard.

Was I raped? It depends on who you ask.

Mind: “I can’t remember. I can’t be sure. Was it a dream? What’s the difference between memory and a nightmare? Something happened. I blacked out. No, absolutely not. It can’t be true. That would not have been possible. I couldn’t have kept something like that a secret. I must be making it up. I want it to be true so people will feel sorry for me. But if it isn’t true then why should they be sorry for me? It’s gone forever so stop trying to figure it out. It doesn’t matter. Why am I stuck in the past? Why can’t I just let it go, “move on.” That’s not something anyone would forget. I’m definitely making it up. I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It wasn’t as bad as I think. It probably didn’t happen. Just stop fucking thinking about it. It can’t be true if I don’t remember it. If my mind shut down, if I blacked out, was unconscious, then it couldn’t be traumatic because I didn’t experience it. I will never know. I have to know. Let it go. I can’t let it go.”

Body: “Something happened to me. I am not in control of my body. I am not in my body. I feel dizzy. I feel nauseous. I’m shaking. I am afraid. I am afraid all the time. I am going to die. I am going to be killed. I am not safe. Please don’t touch me. Don’t hug me. I can’t sleep. I can’t stay awake. Please love me. Please touch me. Please fill this hole inside of me. Don’t look at me. I am not my body. I hate my body. This is not my body! I can’t look at myself. I can’t look at my penis. I do not have genitals. I am dirty. I need take a shower. I need to clean myself. I do not have an anus. It doesn’t exist. Don’t ever let them see you naked. Sex is not safe. I need sex. I should not have sex. I I should not masturbate. I need to masturbate. Should I cut it off?. I’m exhausted all the time. I just want to sleep. I just want to die. Please don’t love me, I’m not deserving of it. Please don’t touch me. Don’t fucking hug me! Where am I?”

Thích Nhất Hạnh wants me to know my mind and my body are one. That may have been true at one time. Was I pure when born? Was I a baby Buddha? If so, what happened? Did I fall from grace? Was the severing gradual and natural? Could it have resulted from mere neglect? Or was it brutal and violent? Was it a kind of death? Was it an initiation? What even was “it”?

I know this to be true: I am still me but I was never me. I remember me but how could I have been me before I ever had memories?

This is also true: I am defined by what was done to me. I will always be defined by what was done to me. I could not be me, otherwise. I will never not be someone who was raped as a child. Even if I don’t even know if I was raped. (I was.) (It depends.)

If I go a long time without crying my body will find a way. Yogis promote slow breathing based on a belief that we have a finite amount of breaths available to us. By slowing them down we can extend our lives. I have a certain amount of tears that must be shed before I die. If I don’t shed them, I will never be free. I spent most of my life holding them back. Ashamed of them. So my body finds ways. I cry at the strangest things. I cry when the hero rescues the victim. I cry when I see children holding hands. I cry the most and the deepest, when I see a parent loving their child.

Trigger Warning: A trigger is a part of a gun. Triggers exist to fire the gun. Triggers wouldn’t exist without guns. Knives don’t have triggers but they can kill you just the same. Trigger warning? I don’t need no stinking trigger warning. I have a constitutional right to my Triggers. Don’t Trigger on me.

There has never been a time in my life when I did not consider suicide. I still do. Why do we place an ethical heirarchy on death and why do we put suicide at the bottom? Death of old age is acceptable, excusable, even appreciated. Death while sleeping is ideal. Sudden death better than slow death. Unless too young for it. Death by cancer? Tragic and noble. Death by accident? Injustice. Death by murder? Someone must pay for it. Replace the value. Death is rarely deserving. Unless you deserved it.

The best death? It comes late in life, with enough of a warning that we can prepare for it. So that we can say good bye. Not so long coming that we suffer. Peaceful death. This kind of death is revered. It’s a sweet release.

What is contemplation of suicide if not preparing for the inevitable? What if suicide, and by extension, death, is the most important thing that we can contemplate?

For years, the ringtone on my phone was the song, “Institutionalized,” by the band Suicidal Tendences. It’s an anthem about a young man struggling with mental illness. I didn’t put much thought into choosing it. I had seen them perform it in the 80’s, it’s a great song. The singer is yelling at everyone to just fucking leave him alone in the midst of his mental turmoil and that’s basically how I feel every time my phone rings. The song ends with his parents institutionalizing him for “his own safety.” Same reason I checked myself in a few years ago. Irony is one of my drugs of choice.

We don’t like to talk about these things. Much of what I’m saying is making some of you uncomfortable. Worried about me. Does he really still think about suicide? After all the healing work he’s done? In spite of the wonderful life and family he finally has? He seems so grounded. So… together. Yes, I am and yes, I do. Doesn’t everybody? Don’t you?

A psychic once told me that I was a kamikaze pilot in my previous life. She also said this one, my current life, is my 74th, and that it might be my last. That I was close to completing my work. I knew she was a quack, a grifter, a manipulator, but she had me bawling. Grieving for the sacrifice I had made. Greiving my own death. It wasn’t for the kamikaze pilot.

I did not believe in reincarnation. I do not. Not in the sense of ego identity, anyway. I know we’re made of energy and that energy, like matter, can’t be destroyed. I also know that Eric Benvenue-Jennings has never existed before now and never will again. I don’t know how to reconcile these beliefs with what I am about to tell you.

I was with a girlfriend on a beach on Cape Cod. Long before I met the psychic. I was young. It was a gorgeous cool night with clear skies and multitudes of stars brighter than seemed possible. It had been a romantic evening with some kissing but mostly just being together. I wasn’t in love but I was in peace. At peace. We had settled into a dreamy state of no more talking, just being. As I contemplated the milky way I was suddenly overcome by a feeling. A flash of insight. A memory. I wanted to commit suicide. No, that wasn’t it. It was something else. I had already committed suicide. Many, many times. This was my legacy. My past, my destiny, my future. Forever. Because the simple act of being born is suicide. I realized I was in a cycle. On a wheel. And that the only way off is through. The only way to be free is to live.

Want to know what really happened in that abandoned chicken coop? I died. I wasn’t raped, I was murdered. I have been dead all this time but I forgot. I am The Walking Dead. The Wicker Man. The Sixth Sense. I am Jacob’s Ladder. The Nightmare on Partridge Street.

You don’t understand paranoia if you think it means, “someone is out to get me.” You don’t understand paranoia if you think it means, “they’re all out to get me.” They? Them? They’re puppets. They probably don’t even know that they’re in on it. They aren’t out to get you. They’re just playing a role. They’re just fabric. Pull their thread and they disappear. But wait, what’s that? The thread is still in my hand when they’re gone. Oh, look, there’s another piece of fabric on this thread. Pull it away and there’s always more.

This is paranoia: the entire universe is an illusion. With a purpose. The purpose is you. The purpose is that you must die. Ritualistically, with a knife. You will be sacrificed. There’s no way out. You can run away. You can wake up screaming. You can curl up on the floor in the back of a  Volkswagon Beetle muttering to yourself over and over, “there’s no place like home.” But this? All of it? It’s just for you. Let me see your neck.

I’m good, though. I’m ok with it. I don’t take it personally. It just comes with the territory. With being the center of the universe. Because I’m still here. I escaped the knife. No matter how many times The Prince of Darkness comes for me, I always escape. I wake up. Still alive. Once I had that realization, things got better.

The last time I met the P of D I surrendered. I let him put his knife right through me. I woke up smiling. I can do this. I can ride this out. I’m aiming for an ideal death, but I’ll be ok with the bus, if it comes. Because that little kid that died in the chicken coop? He’s back. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.

when i die

when i die
when i’m gone
when i’m dead
and gone
mourn for me
keen and wail
kick and cry

don’t toast
don’t sing
don’t celebrate
don’t praise

keen and wail
bawl, howl
snivel, blubber
and moan

it was not my time
it was not for the best
i did not want to go
i did not blow
the scene

i did not surrender
i did not succumb
i did not go to rest
i did not fade away
i did not let go
i did not dearly depart

when i die
when i’m gone
when i’m dead
and gone
weep for me
whimper and whine
gnash your teeth
mewl and bleat

i did not want to go

untitled (how it begins #1039)

the beginning is not the beginning, this is how it starts but this is not the beginning, the beginning was before, the beginning was before that time, that time was a new beginning, that time was a death and a rebirth, the beginning was the beginning, then there was death, a death, the death, followed by a slow re-entry, a 40 year birth, during which time, nothing, except dreams, except nightmares, except hallucinations, except paranoid dreams, a long exception,

ring ring ring is, what a phone sounded like, nobody home to hear it,

flashing red light is, what we saw later, flashing red light is, how it starts, then a beep, a long slow beep of recognition, not memory, not yet, just, foreboding,

this is how it starts, hello, this is we brother, this is we brother, Tom, we have a message for we, and, we better be sitting down, we knew at that instant, not who but what, a death, not we death, not the death that time, we brother death, we other death, we new death, we knew death, Frankie is dead, we killed we-self, now we knew who,

death at that time, death now, always death, death not death,

before that time, was this time, this time became that time, that time became this time , it’s all the same, the same time, we must stretch the time, to see it,

we walked from this time, into that time, into a death, we push it away, we pushed it away, we walked from that time, into this time, which becomes that time, again,

we death that time, we death this time, it’s all the same,

that was how it started, this is how it started, that death, this death, two points, on an imaginary line, only one point, on a circle, a clock,

walking in this time, walking in to home, walking into a long slow beep, walking into we brother, Tom, walking into we brother, Frankie, walking into death, walking into the start, walking in to, not memory,

walking into a familiar feeling, into a sense of it, a recognition, the same that isn’t the same, walking into it, walking into that time, but from a distance, still, not ready,

many times, we was not ready, many times, we stumbled, from the dream into, that time, many times, we were close, without knowing, without memory, that time, was always close, has always been close, is always close, will always be close,

we are not ready we screamed, from the nightmare, back into the dream, we move between them so often, we don’t know which is the dream, which is the nightmare, we are not ready we screamed, we have always been screaming, because we didn’t scream, that time

alps loiterer

literal prose:
we know how this ends
death smiles

every time they visit
to date
they have been responsive
to our refusal
to participate

they usually comes
in biker black
faded leather
white pills
leather jeans

oral reptiles:
we know how this started
derivative sins

it always goes the same
we might think
the frequency might
make it easier
might make right but not

we know they’re there
in plain sight
all we know
isn’t enough because
we’d rather not (know)

everything is good
we made it up that hill
saw the light sun of joy
let it all go the holding—
boom they’re there

with a smiley face
with a knife
with a knowing look
they’ve been waiting
for you

boom we see them
recall them from before
from those times to come
we know them

literal spore:
we know how this ended
they loved us not

it aint panic if
it saves your life
look right look left
where’s the exit?
WE’RE NOT READY!

escape is right there
we’re not sure
we can make it
aid comes but it requires
a sacrifice

oh the irony
to stay death
we must die
admit defeat
beg for mercy
again and
again
knowing
they will come
at last

never was able to
differentiate between a
trigger warning and a
spolier alert

Running A Way

1976.

I run into Mark in the Cap’n Kidd.

I believe I have to die, I say to Mark. We’re drinking Bud long necks at the bar.

We all have to die, Mark answers.

Of course but that’s not what I mean.

What do you mean?

It feels like I have to die in order to live. I say this to you and I’m not sure what it means. But everywhere I look I see my death.

Yet here you stand.

Only because I’m afraid to face it.

Aren’t you facing it now?

No. I always run away just before it happens.

Maybe it’s just your ego.

What? I take a swig.

That has to die.

What?

Mark puts his empty bottle down on the bar. Ego death. Maybe that’s what you’re facing — the dissolution of your ego identity.

I don’t know what that means.

Maybe it’s the way out.

Out of what?

Whatever it is you’re asking me about.

Mark signals with two fingers to the bartender.